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Why Righting History


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One of many limitations (that we will continue to be transparent about as we, too, grow in this space) is that we fully acknowledge that much of the content on this page uses numbers to draw attention to inequities. We hope to acknowledge upfront that while knowing how the past has translated to present manifestations of inequities is vital to work towards meaningful change for the future, we cannot achieve this by simply shedding light using numbers. We hoped that this page’s content would serve as an entry point for those who are most familiar with this type of writing (which is often normal for western-centric academic work) to help to serve as justification for our work. 


The reason we decided to take on this work is to help uplift lived experiences, and we hope to increasingly do so as our resource repertoire grows. We want increased recognition that centering the lived experiences of community members alongside sharing statistics is also essential to realize the insurmountable and personal impacts that these numbers represent. Stories of lived experiences are the closest we may come to beginning to comprehend the past and present role of intersectionality (coined by scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw) in surfacing inequities. Importantly, statistics do not capture the depth of intersectional identities that equity-deserving individuals hold. A critically remorseful example can be found in Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, who all deserve more than an estimated number; they each deserve to be seen, loved, remembered, and sought justice for.


Numbers numb, but stories stick and experiences empower.


Author: Heather Li and Manvi Bhalla

Editor: Christina Di Carlo

Fact checker: Jordan Kilgour

We want to be the generation that practices activism and advocacy in an intentional manner, as best we can. But, how does knowing history better inform our actions in the present? 


In 2018, the independent research non-profit Angus Reid conducted a survey which found that fifty-three percent of Canadians believed that the federal government apologizes too much for residential schools and that Indigenous peoples should not hold “special status” in society and believed Indigenous peoples should integrate into broader Canadian society, even if it means losing their traditions and culture (1). In 2021, Environics conducted their annual Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 survey and found that now, 


  • Canadians are more likely to believe that governments in Canada have not gone far enough in trying to advance reconciliation with Indigenous Peoples

  • The proportion of Canadians who believe that the government has not gone far enough to advance reconciliation has increased

  • 70% believe that individual Canadians have a role to play in efforts to bring about reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people

  • Three in five Canadians say they are familiar with the history of Indian residential schools in Canada, and this familiarity is highest among Canadians aged 18 to 24, and importantly

  • They found that, “among non-Indigenous people, those who are very familiar with this history are more likely than those who are less familiar to say that individual Canadians have a role to play in advancing reconciliation.” (2)


For too long, the narratives surrounding historical events (i.e., how we got to where we are today, what took place and what its impact was) have been pervaded to suit hegemonic narratives. That is to say, the dominant groups in our society (namely white, Anglo-European and usually cis men) have chosen what we commonly accept as our country’s history as we know it today. This indoctrination of “fact” is only reinforced by western-centric curricula that predominates in both formal and informal educational settings. As a result, the stories of the land and its peoples within what is currently Canada, from time immemorial to the present day, have been erased and/or replaced with tales that suit the desired narrative of those in power and those afforded the privileges of proximity to power. These narratives often err on the side of framing events in a manner that often minimizes the true impact of instances and often policies, upon communities; predominantly racialized and Indigenous communities who continue to experience pervasive systemic oppression and inequities in all dimensions of life. 


More specifically, the ability for those in power to control the narratives of what is taught and told grants them an enormous degree of power to control whose stories get told. For example, in the Citizenship Guide which is given to new hopeful immigrants, The Government of Canada erases the trauma of colonization, stating, “... Aboriginals and Europeans formed strong economic, religious and military bonds in the first 200 years of coexistence which laid the foundations of Canada”, which is in contradiction with the narratives offered by most Indigenous Knowledge Keepers, community members and historians (3). In doing so, they neglect the immeasurable genocide of Indigenous peoples throughout colonization, attributable to violent policies and programs that systematically have harmed, and continue to presently harm, Indigenous peoples and communities. Acts of historical revision are faced by various equity-deserving communities within what is currently Canada. 


In three documents that the Righting History team explored, the Canadian Citizenship Guide, a Grade 10 Civics Textbook, and a Grade 10 History Textbook, not a single mention of the civil rights struggles Black Canadians faced in this country was mentioned. In fact, the only mention we found of Black Canadians in all of these texts is Canada as a safe haven for Black slaves escaping the United States. To quote the citizenship guide directly, “Thousands of slaves escaped from the United States, followed “the North Star” and settled in Canada via the Underground Railroad, a Christian anti-slavery network.” (3) Beyond this, there is no mention of Black Canadians anywhere. In fact, according to the 2021 Interim Black Canadian National Survey by York University’s Institute for Social Research, this ignorance of the problems that Black and racialized Canadians face has led 56% of white Canadians to say that racism is not (or a small) problem within the workplace (4). This is despite statistics from the Boston Consulting Group and CivicAction that show us Black students are 4 times more likely to be expelled from high school than their white peers and Black residents are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by a police officer in Toronto than white residents (5). 


We could continue to list the racism and trauma that racialized peoples face on a daily basis while living within the (made up) borders of this country. It is beyond evident that there is a clear and urgent need for a project that will attempt to dispel the myths around the multiplicities of the lived realities of racialized and Indigenous peoples in so-called Canada. It is vital that conciliation efforts include re-education efforts for the public, as increased knowledge on this topic is tied to increased action. This is the bare minimum in reparations (a starting point, really) for equity-deserving communities and individuals.


Overall, we take on the viewpoint that knowledge is power. But it is one thing to hold that knowledge, and it is another to use it. Knowledge is power, but powerless if not shared, applied, or paired with unlearning and relearning of the deep seated biases ingrained in all of us by a colonial institution that, to this day, benefits from the oppression of two-spirit, queer, trans, Black, Indigenous, and people of colour as a whole. To further examine the goals of Righting History, we will look at Righting History through 3 lenses: the past, the present, and the future. 



1. The Angus Reid Institute. Truths of reconciliation: Canadians are deeply divided on how best to address Indigenous issues [Internet]. The Institute; 2018 [cited 2021 Jul 12]. Available from:

2. Institute for Research on Public Policy. Indigenous Relations and Reconciliation: A Report from The Confederation of Tomorrow 2021 Survey of Canadians [Internet]. Institute for Research on Public Policy. 2021 [cited 29 October 2021]. Available from:

3. Citizenship and Immigration Canada. Discover Canada: The Rights and Responsibilities of Citizenship [Internet]. 2012. Available from:

4. York University’s Institute for Social Research. Black Canadian National Survey Interim Report 2021[Internet]. Toronto: The Institute; 2021[cited 2021 Jul 12]. Available from:

5. DasGupta N, Shandal V, Shadd D, Segal A, CivicAction. The Pervasive Reality of Anti-Black Racism in Canada [Internet]. Boston Consulting Group; 2020 Dec 14 [cited 2021 Jul 12]. Available from:

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History Has Been Written By The Colonizers

Author: Heather Li

Editor: Manvi Bhalla and Christina Di Carlo

Fact checker: Jordan Kilgour

Content Warning: Racial slurs, mentions of anti-Black racism and mentions of violence against Indigenous peoples including residential schools

Time and again, people in positions of power in what is currently Canada have distorted or outright denied events that have occurred, which in turn minimizes their consequences upon the lived realities of racialized and Indigenous peoples. This leads to systemic issues which are reflected back upon us when we see trends in hindsight which relay the persistent inequities. 


In 2009, then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper said, “Canada has no history of colonialism” at the G20 summit (1). Have times changed since? In June 2020, François Legault, the premier of Québec declared, “there is no systemic discrimination in Québec, no system in Québec of discrimination” (2). This, despite the fact that the name of 11 geographical sites in the province contained the N-word, which were only changed recently in 2015 (3). This, despite the fact that there is a place in Québec still commonly known as N-word Rock near Québec’s southern border; a graveyard for enslaved people (4). In fact, only 13% of Canadians knew the name Viola Desmond in a 2018 iPolitics survey, despite her being one of the most prominent Black civil rights activists in what is currently Canada (5). 


Understanding that history is written by the colonizers is key to understanding the modern discourse around tearing down John A. Macdonald’s statues. It is not, as John Ivison claims in the National Post, “alter[ing] or rewrit[ing] in Orwellian fashion by some Ministry of Truth to suit its own political ends” (6). In fact, it is historical revision at worst, and white privilege at best, to claim that “[MacDonald’s] principal legacy is his foundational role in this country’s Confederation…” (6). For the 150,000 children (7) who were forced into residential schools, this was not the case. His primary legacy was not merely this country’s Confederation but one of genocide. Historical revisionism is also exemplified in a piece written by Greg Piasetzki in the C2C Journal, where they attempt to claim: “Keep in mind that no treaty obligated the federal government to provide rations to any natives living off-reserve. From this perspective, a diet of half rations was seen as evidence of Macdonald’s compassion rather than malice… The reduction for some was meant to encourage those wandering natives to return to their reserves, where the treaties they signed were forced to keep them that way. Recall that it was this strict and legalistic approach to treaties that distinguished Canada’s native experience from the bloody and arbitrary American version” (8). In the eyes of the Piasetzki and C2C, Macdonald should be praised since he did not commit overt and immediate murder of Indigenous peoples. It goes without saying that we heartily, with our whole being, disagree. 


Historical erasure and historical revisionism is everywhere, whether it be present in these articles or within political speeches by those in positions of power across sectors and within dominating settler governance structures. However, it is vital to the reconciliation process that we all operate on the same basis of facts. As Murad Hemmadi’s opinion piece eloquently states, “societies are built on shared sets of facts, ideas and stories. In other words, societies are built on canons. History is a subset of the canon, containing events and figures from the past that are of some interest or importance... Debate relies on a canon: once you and I agree to a base of facts and ideas, we can use those to make opposing arguments and arrive at different conclusions; without it, we are simply talking past each other” (9). We cannot talk about how to move forward if we do not agree on the same set of facts to begin with.




1. Ljunggren D. Every G20 nation wants to be Canada, insists PM. Reuters [Internet]. 2009 Sept 25 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:

2. Williams D. We too, in Quebec, have created our own bubble of denial and erasure, writes historian Dorothy Williams. CBC [Internet]. 2020 Jun 13 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


3. CBC News. 11 Quebec sites that contain the N-word to be renamed. CBC News [Internet]. 2015 Sep 25 [cited 2021 Sep 19]. Available from:


4. Miller J. Why the Black struggle in Canada has all but been erased. Two historians explain our blind spot. Toronto Star [Internet]. 2020 Dec 21 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


5. The Canadian Press. Most Canadians can’t name achievements of famous women: poll. iPolitics [Internet]. 2018 Mar 7 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


6. Ivison J. John Ivison: Even John A. Macdonald isn't safe from a foolish revisionism that never ends. National Post [Internet]. 2017 Aug 24 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


7. Union of Ontario Indians. An Overview of the Indian Residential School System [Internet]. North Bay: The Union; 2021 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


8. Piasetski G. Sir John A. Macdonald Saved More Native Lives Than Any Other Prime Minister. C2C Journal [Internet]. 2020 Nov 27 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


9. Hemmadi M. What fights about 'erasing' history are really about. Maclean’s [Internet]. 2018 Aug 18 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:

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The History of Now

Author: Heather Li

Editor:  Manvi Bhalla and Christina Di Carlo

Fact checker: Rose Duncan

Content Warning: Mentions of violence against Black peoples, including police brutality

The importance of history and its impact on the present cannot be overstated. According to a report released by the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent (published by the UN Human Rights Council), “history informs [that] anti-Black racism and racial stereotypes that are so deeply entrenched in institutions, policies and practices, that its institutional and systemic forms are either functionally normalized or rendered invisible, especially to the dominant group” (1). They continue to elaborate that, “Canada’s history of enslavement, racial segregation, and marginalization of African Canadians has left a legacy of anti-Black racism and had a deleterious impact on people of African descent, which must be addressed in partnership with the affected communities” (1). What is notable about this report is the emphasis that it is not merely Jim Crow laws that oppress the Black Canadian population, but rather modern institutions with supposedly no bias in terms of race. Black Canadians are overrepresented in segregation facilities, with almost 40% of segregation inmates being Black; while segregation’s long-term effects are reported to be devastating, with exacerbated impacts for those with mental, developmental, and behavioural challenges (1). Beyond this, Black inmates also experience disproportionate rates of violence from prison guards as well as stereotyping as “gang members” or “thugs” (1).


What is the cause of racial discrimination in what is currently Canada? Professor Charmaine Nelson states that the answer lies in the origins of policing, a system rooted in systemic racism that was initially designed to surveil and intercept Black people trying to escape slavery (2). In the present day, census data from 2019 demonstrates that there was a 14% increase in reported hate crimes targeting Black Canadians (3). Moreover, research conducted by Boston Consulting Group in partnership with Civic Action in 2020 found that in Toronto, Black people are 20 times more likely to be shot dead by a police officer compared to their white counterparts (4).


These statistics may be surprising for some, but are likely not surprising to many racialized people. The Righting History initiative was in part created to fill the gap of low awareness or recognition of systemic racism by many non-racialized and non-Indigenous Canadians. This low awareness of systemic racism of the past and present may be partially attributable to an institutional disconnect regarding the way history is currently taught and learned in Canadian schools. The question revolves around time: why are oppression and settler colonial states relegated as merely historical events in the past tense? Stephen Harper’s apology speech on residential schools opens with, “the treatment of children in Indian Residential Schools is a sad chapter in our history” (5). The constant push to isolate racist policies into the past persists throughout our political and education system, and defeats the goals of reconciliation. While acknowledgement of historical wrongdoings is needed, history must acknowledge the persistence of colonialism and systemic barriers ingrained in Canadian society (6). 


In summary, it is important for us to acknowledge the past as a driving force that impacts the present, instead of isolated within a chamber that we can lock and for which we can throw the key away.



1. Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent. Report of the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent on its mission to Canada [Internet]. UN Human Rights Council; 2017 Aug 16 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:

2. Brown KG. Slavery's long shadow: The impact of 200 years of enslavement in Canada. CBC [Internet]. 2018 Jul 5 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


3. Moreau G, Canadian Centre for Justice and Community Safety Statistics. Police-reported hate crime in Canada, 2019 [Internet]. Statistics Canada, 2021 Mar 29 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


4. DasGupta N, Shandal V, Shadd D, Segal A, CivicAction. The Pervasive Reality of Anti-Black Racism in Canada [Internet]. Boston Consulting Group; 2020 Dec 14 [cited 2021 Jul 12]. Available from:


5. Crown-Indigenous Relations and Northern Affairs Canada [Internet]. Statement of apology to former students of Indian Residential Schools; 2010 Sept 15 [cited 2021 Jul 19]. Available from:


6. Miles J. Teaching History for Truth and Reconciliation: The Challenges and Opportunities of Narrativity, Temporality, and Identity. McGill Journal of Education [Internet]. 2018 Spring [cited 19 Jul 2021]; 53(2):294-311. Available from:

History Predicts the Future
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Authors: Heather Li and Christina Di Carlo

Editors: Aarisha Haider, Rose Duncan and Manvi Bhalla

Fact checker: Anna Huschka

It is important to know the history of the lands we live on, and how that history’s echoes reverberate in the present. However, it does no good to hold knowledge and not act upon it. So, what do we do with this newfound knowledge?


In the introduction to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s (TRC) 94 Calls to Action under Section 1(d), they state that to redress the legacy of residential schools and advance the process of Canadian reconciliation, we need to “promote awareness and public education of Canadians about the [Indian Residential School] system and its impacts” (1, 2). Even now, the educational curricula across so-called Canada has not gone far enough to help to further this nor any of the other calls to action. As of  October 4th 2021, only 13 of the calls have been completed (3). A full 20 have not been started (3). The lack of public pressure on those in political power to implement more of the calls to action could in part be due to the fact that only 10% of Canadians consider themselves as being, “very familiar with the history of the residential school system”, according to a June 2021 survey conducted by Assembly of First Nations, Abacus Data and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation (4, 5). The same survey reported that 68% of Canadians polled were still either unaware of the severity of abuses at residential schools or completely shocked by it; however, despite this, four out of five Canadians wish to see the Pope apologize for the Catholic Church’s actions in the abuse of Indigenous children in residential schools. Moreover, 93% of Canadians are aware of the 2021 recoveries of the children at the Kamloops Residential School (4, 5). According to the Assembly of First Nations’ National Chief, Perry Bellgrade, “By margins of greater than three to one, Canadians are telling us they want action on First Nations priorities… People want to see Canada accelerate progress on the 94 Calls to Action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission report, invest in efforts to identify all unmarked graves at residential schools, and to stop fighting against our children and residential school survivors in court. Decisionmakers at all levels must heed these calls for action. These are some of the ways we can truly honour the lives of those who were so tragically lost” (4, 5). 


It is not merely in Indigenous rights that there is some level of progress. According to a survey conducted in fall 2020 by the Angus Reid Institute, 63% of Canadians agree that there is systemic racism within the RCMP and another 63% want to see more investment in social welfare programs compared to more investment in police services (6). Moreover, 62.2% percent of Canadians believe Black people are treated unfairly by the police compared to white people (7). Another survey conducted by Angus Reid Institute in partnership with the University of British Columbia in 2021 reported that 68% percent of Canadians believe that anti-Asian discrimination is a problem today (8). This is not to say that everything is sunshine and rainbows: in that same poll, 32% of non-Asian Canadians believed that Chinese-Canadians were loyal to China, compared to only 7% of Asian-Canadians holding the same view (8). This shows some degree of internalized Sinophobia and othering of Chinese-Canadians, given the belief that they cannot truly be “Canadian” and always must have ties to the Chinese government. However, there is progress in recognizing the racial divides in society, and that momentum must be carried forward into making tangible progress for the future.


Knowledge of history allows us to stop the same mistakes from occurring all over again. While this is undeniably a repeated trope when it comes to the justifications for teaching history, it holds true. Despite the 1997 Supreme Court Ruling upholding that the Wet’suwet’en land was never ceded, only 39% of Canadians supported the Wet'suwet'en protestors, compared to 51% in support of the Coastal GasLink pipeline project itself, according to a survey conducted by Angus Reid Institute in February of 2020 (9, 10). The history of Wet’suwet’en land claims brings more colonial meaning to the Canadian government’s tendency to uphold 76% of injunctions against First Nations peoples, while rejecting 81% of injunctions filed by First Nations groups against corporations (9). 


How do we move forward from here when colonialism has its roots in political action and the perceptions from the general public? Etuaptmumk (Mi’kmaw for ‘Two-Eyed Seeing’) was a concept introduced by Mi’kmaw Elder Dr. Albert Marshall, defined as “learning to see from one eye with the strengths of Indigenous knowledges and ways of knowing, and from the other eye with the strengths of mainstream knowledges and ways of knowing, and to use both these eyes together, for the benefit of all” (11). Embracing various perspectives will serve to oppose the systemic colonial forces that drive perceptions of categorizing ways of knowing as superior and less than (11). Etuaptmumk is a fundamental step towards a collectivistic approach to decolonization and challenges us to question why we see the world the way that we do. Shifting perspectives to co-exist rather than to integrate and assimilate is needed to combat historical and cultural erasure in what is currently Canada. Racialized and Indigenous communities are not history, and should not be historicized as such. The concept of Afro-Indigenous Futurism is more than a cultural aesthetic, but as eloquently illuminated by Ramatoulie Bobb, reimagining possibilities of present and futuristic narratives may contribute to a solution to representing experiences and reflecting on what could not exist today (12). We are not in Canada, we are in what is currently Canada. A land that was not always known as Canada, and a land that may not be known as Canada in the future. Although Afro-Indigenous Futurism as a concept is labelled as ‘fantasy’, reimagining a future brings opportunities to those once not afforded, and subsequent inevitable changes to the current trajectory of what is currently Canada.


1. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action [Report published on the Internet]. 2015 [cited 2021 Jul 18]. Available from:


2. Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada [Internet]. Our Mandate [cited 2021 Jul 18]. Available from:


3. CBC [Internet].  Beyond 94: Truth and Reconciliation in Canada; 2021 Jul 16 [cited 2021 Oct 17]. Available from:


4. Assembly of First Nations. Years after release of TRC report, most Canadians want accelerated action to remedy damage done by residential school system, says poll [Internet]. 2021 Jun 15 [cited 2021 Jul 18]. Available from:

5. Abacus Data. Detailed results: Canadians react to the discovery of remains at residential schools. [Internet]. Ottawa. Canadian Race Relations Foundation and Assembly of First Nations, 2021. [cited 2021 Oct 29]. Available from:


6. Angus Reid Institute. Defend or Defund? One-in-four support cutting local police budgets; most back social welfare over hiring more cops [Internet]. 2020 Oct 26 [cited 2021 Oct 29]. Available from:


7. Lim J. Most say Black and Indigenous people treated worse by police compared to white people: Mainstreet poll. iPolitics [Internet]. 2021 Jul 1 [2021 Jul 18]. Available from:


8. Angus Reid Institute. Anti-Asian Discrimination: Younger Canadians most likely to be hardest hit by experiences with racism, hate [Internet]. 2021 Jun 8 [cited 2021 Oct 17]. Available from:


9. Yellowhead Institute. Land Back A Yellowhead Institute Red Paper [Internet]. 2019 Oct [cited 2021 Oct 29]. Available from:

10. Hennig C. 2 in 5 Canadians support Wet'suwet'en solidarity protesters — but half say yes to pipeline, new poll finds. CBC [Internet]. 2020 Feb 13 [cited 2021 Jul 18]. Available from:

11. Reid AJ, Eckert LE, Lane J-F, et al. “Two-Eyed Seeing”: An Indigenous framework to transform fisheries research and management. Fish Fish. 2021;22;243-261.

12. Ramatoulie Bobb, All Stories Matter: The Need for Afro-Futurism. TEDxRoyalCentralSchool. March 2019. [cited 2021 Oct 29]. Available from:

If you’ve read this far, thank you! We hope that you will join us on this ongoing journey to learn about those groups who have been historically, and are presently, excluded, oppressed, and underserved. A reminder that mental health resources are available here at any point which you may need them.

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